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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Treadmill Training Improves Quality of Life for Veteran with Parkinson’s

September 3, 2013


Vietnam Veteran Bruce Fry participates in a rehabilitation study in the use of multidirectional treadmill training to improve symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. “I haven’t fallen once since I started participating in treadmill training,” said Fry.  “It has helped improve my balance and general outlook on life.”

Vietnam Veteran Bruce Fry of Houston has participated in a study sponsored by the Rehabilitation R&D at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) to treat his symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic, neurological disease, commonly referred to as a movement disorder. Classic motor symptoms of PD include tremor during rest, stiff limbs, slowness of movement, and gait and balance problems that progress over time. There is currently no cure for PD, however, many effective medications and treatment options are available.

“One of the main problems associated with Parkinson’s is that walking and balance are impaired,” said Craig Workman, M.S, MEDVAMC Research Coordinator. “These patients really have to concentrate on their movement, and this effort can be both mentally and physically exhausting.”

One rehabilitation study being conducted at MEDVAMC is the use of multidirectional treadmill training to improve gait and balance in people with Parkinson’s disease. Treadmill training has been reported to be a beneficial tool for gait training in many patients with neurological disorders. In this project, the patient is secured in a harness system while walking on a treadmill in four directions. The multidirectional treadmill training consists of walking forward, backward, and to each side at the fastest, self-selected speed.

“I haven’t fallen once since I started participating in treadmill training,” said Fry. “It has helped improve my balance and general outlook on life.”

“Mr. Fry has really come a long way,” said Workman. “He can now walk without holding the safety rails on the treadmill and while carrying on a conversation, both of which were challenging for him when he started.”

“We aim to establish an optimal training period to improve their walking and balance performance using this training,” said Mon Bryant, PT, Ph.D., Principle Investigator of the project at MEDVAMC.  “Then, we will study changes in clinical measures, as well as biomechanical measure being done in collaboration with investigators from Houston VA and the University of Houston. The research, if successful, could open new avenues toward effective rehabilitation for people with Parkinson’s disease”

Recruitment is ongoing through the Parkinson’s Disease Research Education and Clinical Center (PADRECC), one of six VA Centers around the country, specializing in research, education and clinical care for Veterans with Parkinson's disease and related neurological movement disorders.